The Ballet of La Merlaison
The next day nothing was talked of in Paris but the ball which the provosts of the city were to give to the king and queen, and in which their Majesties were to dance the famous La Merlaison, the kings favourite ballet.At midnight great cries and loud acclamations were heard. It was the king passing through the streets which led from the Louvre to the City Hall, and which were all illuminated with coloured lanterns.
A closet had been prepared for the king, and another for Monsieur. In each of these closets were placed masquerade dresses. The same had been done with respect to the queen and Madame la Présidente.
Half an hour after the kings entrance fresh acclamations were heard. These announced the queens arrival. The provosts did as they had done before, and, preceded by their sergeants, went out to receive their illustrious guest.
The king was the first to come out from his closet. He was attired in a most elegant hunting costume, and Monsieur and the other nobles were dressed as he was. This was the costume that was most becoming to the king, and when thus clothed he really appeared the first gentleman of his kingdom.
The cardinal drew near to the king and placed a casket in his hand. The king opened it, and found in it two diamond studs.
What does this mean? demanded he of the cardinal.
Nothing, replied the latter; only, if the queen has the studs but I very much doubt if she hascount them, sire, and if you find only ten, ask her Majesty who can have stolen from her the two studs that are here.
The king looked at the cardinal as if to ask him what it meant. But he had no time to put any question to him. A cry of admiration burst from every mouth. If the king appeared to be the first gentleman of his kingdom, the queen was assuredly the most beautiful woman in France.
True, her huntress habit was admirably becoming; she wore a beaver hat with blue feathers, a surtout of pearl-grey velvet fastened with diamond clasps, and a petticoat of blue satin embroidered in silver. On her left shoulder sparkled the diamond studs, on a bow of the same colour as the plumes and the petticoat.
The king trembled with joy and the cardinal with vexation. However, at the distance they were from the queen, they could not count the studs. The queen had them; the only question was, had she ten or twelve?
At that moment the violins sounded the signal for the ballet. The king advanced toward Madame la Présidente, with whom he was to dance, and his Highness Monsieur with the queen. They took their places, and the ballet began.
The king danced facing the queen, and every time that he passed by her he devoured with his eyes those studs, the number of which he could not make out. A cold sweat covered the cardinals brow.
The ballet lasted an hour. It had sixteen figures.
The ballet ended amid the applause of the whole assemblage, and every one led his partner to her place. But the king took advantage of the privilege he had of leaving his lady to hasten to the queen.
I thank you, madame, said he, for the deference you have shown to my wishes; but I think two of your studs are missing, and I bring them back to you.
At these words he held out to the queen the two studs the cardinal had given him.
How, sire? cried the young queen, affecting surprise; you are giving me, then, two more. So now I shall have fourteen.
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